Big Words of the Christian Life: Regeneration (Part 1)February 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 48 Comments
Tags: big words of the Christian faith, born again, James 1, John 1, John 3, Matthew 19, natural birth, Nicodemus, spiritual birth, Titus 3
Justification is not how you get into God’s family. It is what God declares about you once you become part of His family: that you are righteous before Him because of having put your trust in Christ.
Adoption is not how you get into God’s family. It is how you enjoy your place in God’s family: God gives you the “standing” of an adult child.
Regeneration is how you get into God’s family.
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
There is a sense in which all of creation will one day be regenerated. It will be returned to the pristine condition in which it was originally created by God. So, even though this type of regeneration is not precisely the same thing we’re talking about in the salvation of men, it does teach us that regeneration deals not only with re-creation – a new birth – a new start – but with a new start that is specifically directed to be “unto God.” The soteriological implication of regeneration is not just a re-creation for a blank slate of experimentation. It is a re-creation pre-ordained to set things right – with God Himself as the focus of all life.
The basis for our definition of regeneration in the salvific sense can be found in Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
We were not justified by our own works or merit. We are not adopted because of our own works or merit. We are specifically told that our very salvation in every aspect is completely of God. It is according to His mercy, which flows from Him.
The word “regeneration” means “born again.” When a person is “born” the reason that you know he has been born is because of one over-arching feature about him or her: Life. People have been born once in sin, and the experience of being “born” spiritually is a second birth. We call it – just as Jesus called it – being “born again.”
If we received only a physical form of life at our first birth, we must receive some “new” type of life at our second birth. Here is a fuller definition of Regeneration: It is the act of God which grants a second, spiritual birth, and new life, to the person who has trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Over and above just having a definition, I want describe three main things about regeneration from Jesus’s most overt teaching about it: John 3:1-9.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
Nicodemus would have been very religious. He would have sacrificed and prayed in keeping with the Old Testament law. He would have been moral, and would have been in the habit of giving generously to the poor.
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Maybe Nicodemus came to Jesus at night out of shame, or maybe just out of a desire to have a private conversation with Him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus struggled with this idea, but not because he wasn’t sharp enough to grasp it, and not because the concept was too obtuse. No, he couldn’t see the point because he was lost and, therefore, spiritually blind.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
People did this with Jesus’s teachings throughout the New Testament. There was once a lady at a well who wanted to know how Jesus could give her water when He didn’t have a dipper, even though He was talking about the Living Water of eternal life. (John 4:6-14) When Jesus talked about eating His Body and drinking His blood, meaning fellowshipping with Him in the Life-giving blessings of His crucifixion, some may have accused Him of cannibalism. (John 6:47-66) Many of the people that Jesus encountered were spiritually, albeit willfully, blind – just like lost folks today.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Regeneration is intelligible. It’s understandable. It is basic. The meaning of it is simple (even though I don’t like the expression, “It’s simple to be saved,” because it minimizes the great and mighty work of salvation that the Lord accomplished in the plan of redemption.)
In a natural biological birth two parents are involved. In the Spiritual birth there are also two Parents involved: The Word of God…
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
… and the Spirit of God (John 3:5).
In natural biological birth the baby’s effort does not play a part. In the Spiritual birth Christians are born by God’s will, not our own.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
There is a simplicity to regeneration. There is a mystery to it, too, but everyone is familiar with having a baby, and with the truth that a baby is a brand new life. Christians are brand new creatures in Christ Jesus from the moment of salvation, with a new kind of life: eternal life, God’s life.
1. Regeneration is intelligible.
Next time we will see that:
2. Regeneration is irrevocable.
3. Regeneration is imperative.